Australian university to ignore 2020 school results for 2021 intake

ANU ditches reliance on admissions scores and invites early bids from the class of the coronavirus

四月 8, 2020
Brian Schmidt speaks at the World Academic Summit

An Australian university has decided to overlook this year’s school results when it assesses undergraduate admissions for 2021.

The Australian National University (ANU) says applications from people in the final year of school will be judged on their results from 2019 rather than 2020.

Vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt said that this year was “not panning out how any of us expected”, and that the new admission requirements would provide school-leavers across Australia with “certainty in uncertain times”.

“Students, particularly those in their final year of school, have experienced a very tough year already,” Professor Schmidt said, guaranteeing them places at ANU “if their marks from year 11 meet our entry requirements”. He urged them to apply during the April school holidays.

The move comes two days after the nation’s education ministers resolved to retain the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) this year, while failing to agree on how to adapt it to allow for pandemic disruption.

The situation has added to concerns that students’ career plans could be unfairly derailed, with ATARs largely determined by results in end-of-year exams.

ANU has already decreased its reliance on the ATAR in a new selection mechanism announced in 2018, and scheduled for introduction this year. As originally envisaged, the approach considered traits such as community service, part-time work and sporting prowess alongside ATAR scores.

It also allowed students to apply months before the ATAR’s release in December. The university says that applications will now be accepted for the next seven weeks, with offers made in August.

The offers, which include guaranteed on-campus accommodation, will be honoured so long as applicants complete their schooling. Professor Schmidt said last year’s admission round showed that ANU had been able to reliably predict students’ year 12 performance based on their year 11 marks.

He said that ANU planned to admit about 2,500 Australian school-leavers next year, a figure roughly in line with recent intakes. The prediction comes as universities confront an uncertain future for domestic enrolments.

The Universities Admissions Centre (UAC), which started accepting applications for New South Wales and Canberra institutions on 1 April, said that early submissions from school students had come in at almost triple the rate of last year.

Education minister Dan Tehan also expects increased domestic enrolments next year, as people turn to study amid what is expected to be a depressed labour market.

But 2020 domestic enrolments have proven less buoyant. University of Queensland vice-chancellor Peter Høj said that the pandemic would have a “significant impact” on student numbers this year and asked staff to focus on retaining as many as possible.

UNSW Sydney vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs warned staff that “we need to prepare ourselves for a very different higher education sector and UNSW in 2021”. University of Sydney vice-chancellor Michael Spence said that while domestic student numbers had been “relatively stable” so far, they were about 5 per cent below the university’s expectations.

A Sydney spokeswoman said that the university anticipated reductions in both domestic and international enrolments in semester two.

john.ross@timeshighereducation.com

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